Personable Scotsman just missed out of GT title in 2015

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Veteran sports car racer Ryan Dalziel is anxious to hit the streets of St. Petersburg next week (March 9-12) for the 2017 Pirelli World Challenge season opener with two 50-minute sprint races.

The 34-year-old Scotsman, who now resides in Windermere, Fla., has something to prove in North America’s top GT Production-based road racing series.

In 2015, Dalziel missed three GT events in the PWC campaign and he finished third in the final GT standings, just 100 points out of the lead. Due to his world sports car commitments, Ryan was forced to pass off his GT mount to other drivers.

“I’m extremely excited to get back to the Pirelli World Challenge series this year,” said Dalziel, a former open-wheel star who became a full-time sports car driver in 2008. “I come from the open-wheel background where I could set up my car how I like. And I can do that with the sprint race format of PWC. In other sports car events, you are always making a compromise in the car’s setup for other drivers on the team. I guess that’s the selfish mentality of an open-wheel racer. But it is fun to have a car all to yourself.”

Dalziel has been a regular in the PWC paddock with assisting other drivers and teams the past few years. But now he is set for a GT championship run in the DeVilbiss Mercedes AMG GT3 car from CRP Racing.

“I’ll be honest, I want to prove that I could have won the GT title back in 2015,” said Dalziel. “But that was my issue that I missed the three races. I had other racing commitments. That is not the case in 2017. I want to run for the GT title. The GT division is very tough and highly-competitive. Just look at the season finishes the last two years. The point championship came down to the final race.”

In 2017, Dalziel is moving from a Porsche that he won races with in 2015 to an all-new V-8, front-engine Mercedes AMG GT3. And his driving style will be much different as well.

“The Porsche 911 drove a lot more like a prototype sports car similar to what I drive in the other series (WEC and IMSA),” Ryan explained. “The front-engine Mercedes is a very good car, but I have had to change my driving a bit. The Mercedes is similar to the Dodge Viper I drove previously as well as the Chevrolet Corvette. It has big power and rear-wheel drive. And it’s fun to drive. It just takes a little time to get adjusted.”

Dalziel, a former winner of the 24 Hours of LeMans and the 12 Hours of Sebring sports car classic, believes his CRP Racing team has done an outstanding job in the preparation of the new Mercedes and he was impressed with the car in recent testing.

“I think Nick Short and his CRP Racing operation is excellent and the testing we did earlier at Sebring was very good,” said Ryan. “We didn’t get all of the runs that we wanted that trip, so we’ll stop and run the Mercedes again before the St. Pete weekend. I think this car can be very competitive. We’ll continue to develop it as well. It has potential.”

Entering his tenth season as a regular sports car driver, Dalziel has no regrets about leaving his open-wheel career as he has become a star in another form of motorsports.

“You know, timing is everything in racing,” he explained. “I know a number of young open-wheel guys with great resumes and plenty of potential who just didn’t get to the IndyCar Series. I got to run a season in ChampCar and then the doors opened for me in sports cars. It was great move for my career. I don’t look back on things now. My lifestyle has changed with a family and I can continue to race in tremendous machinery. Just like this new Mercedes in the Pirelli World Challenge this year.”

And the personable Scotland native is ready for his shot at another racing title in 2017. But he also knows it won’t be easy.

“I’ll tell you that the PWC GT class has some outstanding drivers this year,” Dalziel said. “I raced with many of them over the years and understand the competition level in the series. There are new drivers entering Pirelli World Challenge too. Guys like Johnny (O’Connell), Pat (Long), Bryan (Sellers) and Ryan (Eversley) are excellent and I am anxious to race drivers like Alvaro Parente and Michael Cooper and others. It should be a great season in the GT class.”

Action begins for the Pirelli World Challenge Grand Prix presenting by Cadillac next Thursday afternoon (March 9) in the streets of St. Petersburg with the GT/GTA/GT Cup and GT4/GTS classes on track. The GT/GTA/GT Cup features are set for 9:35 am ET on Saturday (March 11) and 3:15 p.m. ET on Sunday (March 12).

Live streaming of the St. Petersburg events is set for and with taped delay coverage on CBS Sports Network scheduled for Saturday (March 18) at 2 p.m. ET with the GT/GTA/GT Cup races and Wednesday (March 22) at 10:30 p.m. ET with the GT4/GTS division.